The Tragedy of Tony Blair

A tie for a noose? If his enemies got their way.

I came across this article by Nick Cohen recently (whose What’s Left? should be mandatory reading for everyone interested in the radical fringes of politics). Of Tony Blair’s early days as Prime Minister, Cohen writes:

… there was always a case for Blair. His dedicated adherents could see no wrong in whatever he did. But others, including your correspondent, were, if you will, “left” or “anti-totalitarian” Blairites. Whatever criticisms of his domestic policies we had, we thought that when set against his enemies, Tony Blair was an admirable man.

We are a small nation whose international burdens, for many, were lost with the empire. But Blair had no time for Little Englander isolationism. His actions probably prevented a genocide in Sierre Leone – but the inevitably depressing tone of modern news coverage says that lack of genocide gets less coverage than genocide – and he was pivotal in organising NATO involvement in Kosovo, while being the first British leader to respond to the Afghan government’s call for military intervention. Kosovan children are named after him. None of these places have any oil; and yet, after Iraq, he was suddenly a “war criminal”. There was apparently no rational alternative.

And then yesterday Blair defended the role of Paul Kagame’s military role in DR of Congo:

I’m not disputing the need to make sure that everybody abides by the right international principles here, I’m simply saying it isn’t right to put all of this on Rwanda.

Too many people have died in the conflict for this sort of dismissive rhetoric. The sad irony is that he learnt this in Iraq, as he has made clear in the last two episodes of BBC’s Newsnight. So why the sell-outs to pseudo-tyrants like Kagame? Cohen suggests moral collapse; I’m more sympathetic. A decade of being called a war criminal and mocked and harassed in decent civil society would turn any sane person to cash, to the isolationism Blair once decried. During the Newsnight interview, he made no attempt to hide his loathing for the petty anti-establishment drivel of conspiracy theory. I have never seen him look so honestly disturbed and manifestly irritated.

A good mind, and a good influence, have been vomited out of British politics. And then there are others who are are just swallowed again. Now that’s tragic.


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